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Elon Musk: Not having a self-driving car in 15 years will be like still owning a horse

Updated Nov 4th, 2015 8:51AM EST
Tesla Self Driving Cars

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk hasn’t been shy about where he thinks the auto industry is headed. In the not too distant future, Musk envisions that every car on the road will be fully autonomous. In fact, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Musk said that requisite technology to manufacture a fully autonomous car is only about five to six years away.

“They will be a factor of 10 safer than a person [at the wheel] in a six-year time frame,” Musk told the WSJ.

Echoing this sentiment with some of his trademark brash, Musk during Tesla’s earnings conference call on Tuesday once again reaffirmed his belief that all cars will eventually be autonomous. Not only that, Musk boasted that Tesla is going to get there before everyone else.

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Driving the point home, Musk said that owning a non-autonomous vehicle in 15 years or so will be akin to owning a horse.

“Well, I’m actually on record saying that I think that all cars will go fully autonomous in the long-term,” Musk explained. “I think it will be quite unusual to see cars that don’t have full autonomy, let’s say, in 15-20 years. And for Tesla, it will be a lot sooner than that.”

Musk added that any car in the future that isn’t fully autonomous will have a “negative value.” And taking things home, Musk added that “in 20 years, if you have a car that isn’t autonomous, it will be like owning a horse. You’re really just owning it for sentimental reasons.”

Tesla, of course, practices what it preaches. Just a few weeks ago, the company rolled out new Autopilot features to its fleet of Model S sedans across the globe. And while the Model S isn’t fully autonomous just yet, it’s apparently smart enough to let drivers shave and eat breakfast while zooming down the highway at over 90 mph (though we wouldn’t recommend you try it yourself).

As a final point, it’s worth noting that while Musk believes the technology to support autonomous driving is just a few years away, he also believes that actually seeing such cars on the road will take a little while longer due to regulatory hurdles and overcoming collective fear from the driving public.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.